Contrary to what most people may believe, a head lice infestation isn't necessarily a sign of poor hygiene. Lice are tiny wingless insects that live on the scalp as their breeding ground, and survive by feeding on blood drawn from the same. They are transferred from one person to another through close contact (head-to-head contact), sharing personal items, and through contaminated articles like bedding, furniture, clothes, etc.
These parasites only live on humans, and cannot be passed to or caught from animals. Head lice infestation is more common in overcrowded living conditions and that is why most school going children are affected by it. Lice do not carry any disease thus they do raise any health concern. But with time if the infestation is not treated, the scalp may become severely itchy and persistent itching may cause secondary skin infection.
Tips to Eliminate Head Lice
Mostly, head lice infestation can be dealt with over-the-counter products such as medicated shampoos, lotions, creams, etc. You may require treatment more than once to get rid of the adult lice and their eggs. If nonprescription medicines do not respond, then your doctor may prescribe you stronger medicines. Note that products formulated for killing lice are insecticides. That is why it is important to follow the recommended instructions for their use. As head lice can easily pass from person to person, other members in your family will also need to be checked for infestation and treated accordingly.
A more traditional approach to treat head lice infestation is removing the insects manually. It mainly involves combing wet hair with a fine-toothed comb. This method is especially recommended for children under two as for them medicated lice treatment methods are unsafe.
Before you begin, it is recommended to wash your hair with a mild shampoo, and apply a hair conditioner. Wet hair slows down the movement of lice, and conditioner makes combing easy. So when you start combing, ensure that the teeth of the comb lightly touches your scalp. Draw the comb all the way down to the end of the hair, and check if it has caught any lice. Rinse the comb, and repeat with another section of your hair. For best results, repeat this procedure every 3-5 days, and continue for at least 2 weeks. This would help you get rid of the eggs before they hatch and begin the infestation all over again.
Apart from the methods cited above, there are a few home remedies that you can also use at home to manage a head lice infestation.
- Massage your scalp with a mix of tea tree oil and olive oil, and wash your hair with mild shampoo after sometime.
- Apply onion juice to your hair roots using your fingertips. Wait for about 3-4 hours, and let the pungent smell do its work in getting rid of the lice. Wash your hair thoroughly to ensure that you do not have the pungent smell anymore. For best results, apply this method for 3-4 days continuously to wipe out the lice nits.
- Make a mix of vinegar (2 tsp.) and water (6 tsp.), and apply it to your scalp before going to bed. Cover your head with a cotton cloth, and wash your hair the next morning.
- Make a garlic paste and mix it with lemon juice. Apply it to the scalp, and leave it overnight. Have a head bath with lukewarm water and mild shampoo the next morning.
No matter what you do for killing head lice, if you do not do anything about disinfecting your home, then you can expect another lice attack very soon. So get your bedding materials and all your clothing in one place, and toss them into the washing machine in hot water, both in the wash cycle and the rinse cycle. Do not forget the stuffed toys. Also, soak things like brushes and combs in hot water for at least about 10-15 minutes. Equally important is vacuuming furniture such as beds, couches, chairs, and carpets. This would kill those lice that may have escaped the washing machine.
Head lice symptoms may not surface until at least two months after the infestation has taken place. The primary symptom is intense itching. When the parasites bite onto the scalp to feed on the blood, they inject a kind of saliva into the skin. This substance triggers a reaction which causes severe itching and occur in the form of red bumps on the scalp. These bumps can also occur on the neck and shoulders. The other symptom is the presence of the lice and their nits themselves. The adults mainly live behind the ears and the back of the neck, and the nits, on the hair shafts.
Note that the home remedies cited above may not work for severe head lice infestation, and their results are highly individual. Pregnant women, and people with asthma or allergies must consult a doctor before using any medicated treatment methods to get rid of head lice. Also, if continuous scratching has caused any skin abrasions or wound in the scalp, see your doctor to reduce the risk of a bacterial infection.
Disclaimer: This article is provided as an information resource only, and should not be used to replace professional medical advice.